San Juan River Rafting

3, 4 or 6 Days See dates & prices 4.88 16 reviews
Location Utah Adventure Level Easier Minimum age 6 River Rating Class II From $949
Book Now Call toll-free 1 (800) 346-6277

Paddle along the edge of Bears Ears National Monument through a dramatic red rock labyrinth, hike up nearby canyons, and discover remnants of ancient civilizations on this laid-back rafting trip.

Rafting the San Juan River in southeastern Utah offers the ultimate outdoor family vacation with easy paddling and hiking. The river is a place of surreal beauty and vibrancy, hundreds of millions of years in the making. A calm, congenial stretch, rafting the San Juan combines a relaxing float trip livened up by fun Class II rapids. Kids and adults love the terrific hiking opportunities and the warm water. A bottomless archeological treasure chest, this area encases numerous remnants of ancient civilizations. Lined with vivid pictographs and petroglyphs, Ancestral Puebloan ruins, and Moki Steps–carved into near-vertical sandstone over 800 years ago–the San Juan is an enormous natural museum locked within a labyrinth of dramatic red rock canyons. Twisting and turning through one of the most convoluted canyons in the Colorado Plateau, the Goosenecks of the San Juan zigzag over seven miles in an airline distance of just two miles. End your day relaxing in warm pools and beach camping under the desert stars.

Trip Highlights
  • Easy floating on calm water & gentle rapids
  • Impressive Native American cliff dwellings & well-preserved rock art
  • Raft the extraordinary zigzagging Goosenecks of the San Juan
  • Warm water that’s perfect for swimming & water fights
  • Pristine camps, beach games & delicious meals

What to Expect

Itinerary & Map

Itinerary at a Glance

We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every San Juan River rafting trip is different depending upon the group, other trips on the water, camp locations, and sometimes the weather. The following is a sample of what your trip might be like:

The Day Before Your Trip

We’ll meet this evening for a pre-trip meeting in Bluff, Utah. This is an opportunity to meet your fellow travelers and guides, and ask any last-minute questions. Your guides will give you a thorough trip orientation and pass out your waterproof river bags so you can pack your belongings that evening.

Day 1

Our trip begins with a 4-mile drive from Bluff to our put-in at Sand Island, where your boats and your OARS crew await. After a thorough safety talk, we’ll peacefully float downstream for a few hours, getting to know our fellow travelers and soaking in the majesty of our surroundings. Our first stop is Butler Wash, where we’ll be amazed by petroglyphs engraved across a sheer rock wall. The figures depicted here are considered by some to be “Kachinas,” or gods. This is an excellent introduction to rock art we’ll see as we head downstream. We’ll also see “moki steps” that were carved into the cliffs at least 800 years ago.

Not much farther downriver, we stop for a short walk to River House, a well-preserved prehistoric cliff dwelling. We have time to explore this multi-room structure and admire the rock art including human hands, sheep, and snake figures that adorn the overhanging walls and ceiling. We might also explore where the Hole in the Rock expedition first arrived in the area in the late 1800s on the famous Mormon Trail.

Our first day generally sets the pace for our river trip. Typically, we spend a few hours on the water in the morning, sometimes stopping for a great hike, a prehistoric site, or a refreshing swim.

At lunchtime, we pull over to a sandy beach and enjoy a delicious picnic. After feasting and relaxing on the beach (or perhaps swimming, a game of Frisbee, or a nature walk), we get back in our boats and watch the desert panoramas slowly develop and change as we peacefully float down the river.

Mid- to late afternoon, we stop and make camp; you grab your bags and set up your tent while we take care of the kitchen and “living room”—camp chairs and the site for tonight’s campfire (if permitted). This is the perfect time for you to lounge on the beach with that book you’ve wanted to finish forever. Before long, you’ll be savoring pleasing hors d’oeuvres and the beverage of your choice.  Nap, take an exploratory hike, or just sit back and laugh with friends and family as we prepare dinner.

After a satisfying meal, the evening is yours to spend however you wish. Maybe music, stories, or jokes will bring us together tonight; maybe the popping of the fire, the whisper of the river, and the clarity of the big, star-filled sky will encourage silent reflection on the amazing wilderness that is, for now, our home.

Days 2 – 5 (Depending on Trip Length)

Your day begins as the cliff walls reflect the colors of sunrise. Fresh coffee and tea are waiting when you get up; grab a cup, sit back, and take in the glory of the awakening river. Soon breakfast is served—omelets made to order, blueberry pancakes, sizzling bacon, fresh fruit, toast, and juice are among the treats you will indulge in each morning. Once you’ve eaten your fill, you pack up your things as the guides break down camp, then our new day’s adventure begins.

As the San Juan carries us further into this majestic geological corridor, we begin to see evidence of the earth’s activity—slow and steady, or sudden and violent—over the course of the river’s 300-plus-million-year existence. Within the first 10 miles, the river crosses the Comb Ridge monocline, a gigantic upwarp that extends unbroken for over 50 miles. A hike to the Mule Ear diatreme reveals an eruptive ground vent and a rubble mass of rocks from the earth’s mantle. Then it’s back to our boats to begin our descent into the upper San Juan canyon, where we meet our first whitewater, Four-Foot Rapid. Eight-Foot and Ledge Rapids also spice up our tranquil float as we enter the upper “Narrows,” a particularly tight gorge carved out of the brilliant rocky layers by the very river upon which we drift.

If you opt for the 6-day upper canyon trip, we follow the same route as the 3 or 4-day trip but there are more opportunities for hiking and exploration within the canyon.

Day 3, 4 or 6 (Depending on Trip Length)

Our trip draws to a close as we reach the take out at Mexican Hat. Having enjoyed the camaraderie of past days and the magnificence of the river corridor, we say our goodbyes upon returning to Bluff.

Meeting Time & Place

Location

Bluff, Utah

Meeting time

7 PM, the evening before your trip

Return

2-3 PM

Trip Map

Itinerary at a Glance

We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every San Juan River rafting trip is different depending upon the group, other trips on the water, camp locations, and sometimes the weather. The following is a sample of what your trip might be like:

The Day Before Your Trip

We’ll meet this evening in Bluff, Utah for a pre-trip meeting. This is an opportunity to meet your fellow travelers and guides, and ask any last-minute questions. Your guides will give you a thorough trip orientation and pass out your waterproof river bags so you can pack your belongings that evening.

Day 1

We begin our day with a 4-mile drive from Bluff to our put-in at Sand Island, where your boats and your OARS crew await. After a thorough safety talk, we’ll peacefully float downstream for a few hours, getting to know our fellow travelers and soaking in the majesty of our surroundings. Our first stop is Butler Wash, where we’ll be amazed by petroglyphs engraved across a sheer rock wall. The figures depicted here are considered by some to be “Kachinas,” or gods. This is an excellent introduction to rock art we’ll see as we head downstream. We’ll also see “moki steps” that were carved into the cliffs at least 800 years ago.

Not much farther downriver, we stop for a short walk to River House, a well-preserved prehistoric cliff dwelling. We have time to explore this multi-room structure and admire the rock art including human hands, sheep, and snake figures that adorn the overhanging walls and ceiling. We might also explore where the Hole in the Rock expedition first arrived in the area in the late 1800s on the famous Mormon Trail.

Our first day generally sets the pace for our river trip. Typically, we spend a few hours on the water in the morning, sometimes stopping for a great hike, a visit to a waterfall or a prehistoric ruin, or a refreshing swim.

At lunchtime, we pull over to a sandy beach and enjoy a delicious picnic. After feasting and relaxing on the beach (or perhaps swimming, a game of Frisbee or a nature walk), we get back in our boats and watch the desert panoramas slowly develop and change as we peacefully float down the river.

Mid- to late afternoon, we stop and make camp; you grab your bags and set up your tent while we take care of the kitchen and “living room”—camp chairs and the site for tonight’s campfire (if permitted). This is the perfect time for you to lounge on the beach with that book you’ve wanted to finish forever. Before long, you’ll be savoring pleasing hors d’oeuvres and the beverage of your choice.  Nap, take an exploratory hike, or just sit back and laugh with friends and family as we prepare dinner.

After a satisfying meal, the evening is yours to spend however you wish. Maybe music, stories, or jokes will bring us together tonight; maybe the popping of the fire, the whisper of the river, and the clarity of the big, star-filled sky will encourage silent reflection on the amazing wilderness that is, for now, our home.

Days 2 – 3

Your day begins as the cliff walls reflect the colors of sunrise. Fresh coffee and tea are waiting when you get up; grab a cup, sit back, and take in the glory of the awakening river. Soon breakfast is served—omelets made to order, blueberry pancakes, sizzling bacon, fresh fruit, toast, and juice are among the treats you will indulge in each morning. Once you’ve eaten your fill, you pack up your things as the guides break down camp, then our new day’s adventure begins.

As the San Juan carries us further into this majestic geological corridor, we begin to see evidence of the earth’s activity—slow and steady, or sudden and violent—over the course of the river’s 300-plus-million-year existence. Within the first 10 miles, the river crosses the Comb Ridge monocline, a gigantic upwarp that extends unbroken for over 50 miles. A hike to the Mule Ear diatreme reveals an eruptive ground vent and a rubble mass of rocks from the earth’s mantle. Then it’s back to our boats to begin our descent into the upper San Juan canyon, where we meet our first whitewater, Four-Foot Rapid. Eight-Foot and Ledge Rapids also spice up our tranquil float as we enter the upper “Narrows,” a particularly tight gorge carved out of the brilliant rocky layers by the very river upon which we drift.

We’ll float past the town of Mexican Hat and enter the Mendenhall Loop, the beginning of the famous Goosenecks of the San Juan River. This snake-like stretch of river twists and turns so tightly, we cover seven river miles through a section measuring just two miles as the crow flies! Winding back and forth, we’ll pass exquisite works of water and rock like the Tabernacle and the Second Narrows.

We may have time to stop at Mendenhall Loop for a short hike. In 1893 prospector Walter Mendenhall staked a claim at the first gooseneck in search of gold. The remains of his stone cabin rest on the plateau overlooking the river.

Days 4 – 5

After leaving the fascinating Goosenecks, we’re treated to glimpses of rocky wonders like Cedar Mesa, Cowboy Hat, and Eagle Rock. Beneath this stretch of river lie extensive oil fields, and at lower water levels, we may be able to see the very oil seeps where the Ancestral Pueblos may have gathered this precious resource for fuel and medicine. All along, we keep watch for bighorn sheep near the water and Native American ruins hidden atop cliffs.

Our trip is certainly not devoid of whitewater, and this stretch of river delivers plenty of excitement with rapids such as Ross and Government.

A favorite activity on the San Juan is a visit to Slickhorn Gulch for a much-needed swim in its natural plunge pools. This beautiful canyon holds many hidden surprises, including fossils, maidenhair ferns, and waterfalls.

Day 6

Our trip draws to a close as we reach the Clay Hills boat ramp. Feeling as if we’ve temporarily left our modern age for the past five days, and having grown so close to our guides and fellow travelers, the shuttle ride back to Bluff and “civilization” is bittersweet. However, it doesn’t take long to realize that although we’ve left the river, the river will never leave us.

Meeting Time & Place

Location

Bluff, Utah

Meeting time

7 PM, the evening before your trip

Return

2-3 PM

Trip Map

Dates & Prices

Upper Canyon

2024 DeparturesAdult PriceYouth Price
May 14$1,099$999
June 19$1,099$999
July 6, 23$1,049$949

Upper Canyon

2024 DeparturesAdult PriceYouth Price
March 18$1,349$1,249
April 8, 22$1,349$1,249
May 5 All Adult$1,349$1,249
June 23$1,399$1,299
July 15, 30$1,349$1,249

Upper Canyon

2024 DeparturesAdult PriceYouth Price
April 1 Stars & Guitars$1,649$1,549
April 15 Hiker$1,649$1,649
October 16 Hiker$1,649$1,649

Full Canyon

2024 DeparturesAdult PriceYouth Price
June 2, 9$1,699$1,599
Book Now

Deposit

$400

Additional Costs

• $10 or $30 per person BLM Special Area Fee
• Sleep Kit $40 | Tent included

Ways to Save

To book with one of our special offers, call 1-800-346-6277 or contact us today.

San Juan River Special Offer

Save $100 per person when you book select 2024 San Juan River departures online by April 30th using promo code RAD10024.

Premier Pricing

Save up to 10% (or more) on most domestic trips when you’re one of the first 4 people to book by March 31st!

Specialty Trips

The Need-to-Know Info

Trip Details

Included in Your Trip Cost

  • Skilled professional guide service
  • 2, 3 or 5 nights of catered camping: all meals from lunch on day 1 through lunch on the last day
  • Expedition equipment, including highest quality rafts, 2-person shared tent, personal flotation device (PFD), helmet, waterproof bags, camp chair, as well as eating utensils and plates
  • Transfers from Recapture Lodge to the river and back
  • Wetsuit–weather dependent (does not include wetsuit booties, or footwear of any kind). For clients with a high interest in using the inflatable kayaks, we will bring a limited supply of wetsuits. If you have your own, please feel free to bring it with you.

Not Included in Your Trip Cost

  • Transportation to and from Bluff, Utah
  • Pre- and post-trip accommodations and meals
  • Sleeping bag & a deluxe 3-inch thick air-filled sleeping pad (available for rent)
  • Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Gratuities

The number and variety of boats on an OARS trip will vary based on water levels, the number of participants, and other factors we take into account when planning your adventure. Please be aware that in doing so we will ask you to share boat time with your fellow travelers. We don’t assign boats, nor can we guarantee exactly which crafts we bring, but trust us to provide you with the best possible mix for you and others on your trip. 

Learn more about the OARS Fleet and the boats that may be a part of your experience: Oar raft, inflatable kayak, or stand-up paddleboard.

During the high-water season use of inflatable kayaks and stand-up paddleboards will be at the guides’ discretion.

After each active day on the river, we pull ashore to camp for the night. Our first task is to unload the boats using a fire-line of crew and guests to expedite the process. Individuals then collect their waterproof bags and locate an area on the beach to camp for the night. 

While you put up your tent, the guides will set up the kitchen and central dining/seating area with camp chairs. They will also locate a secluded area away from camp to set up the portable toilet, where privacy is assured.

As guides prepare dinner, hors d’oeuvres are served. This is an opportunity to relax, enjoy a drink if you wish, and reflect on the day with your fellow traveling companions.

In the morning, the first wake-up call lets you know that coffee, hot water for tea or cocoa, juice, fresh fruit, and cold cereal are ready. You can fill your mug and grab a bite, then begin to pack up your personal belongings and sleep gear as the guides prepare breakfast.

After breakfast, the entire camp is broken down and packed up. Once the guides have all of the gear loaded back onto the boats, we’ll head downstream to see what new adventures await us.

More info about Meals & Dietary Restrictions can be found on our Trip Resources page.

Average Air & Water Temperatures

Air (Day) °FAir (Night) °FWater °F
April713852
May814655
June915462
July966170
August956072

Water Levels & Temperature

A major tributary of the Colorado River, the San Juan forges a watery path through some of the world’s most splendid wilderness. A calm, congenial river, the San Juan offers a relaxing float trip livened up by fun Class II rapids.

The flow of the San Juan River varies according to snowmelt and reservoir releases from the Navajo Dam. Because the whitewater is generally moderate, higher or lower flows do not considerably change the experience. Peak flows usually occur between mid-May and mid-June, but can vary widely from early May and into July. Water temperatures are coldest during the high water period and rain gear and warm synthetic clothing will be required.

Whitewater

A major tributary of the Colorado River, the San Juan forges a watery path through some of the world’s most splendid wilderness. A calm, congenial river, the San Juan offers a relaxing float trip livened up by fun Class II rapids.

Before booking your trip with OARS, there are a few important considerations we’d like you to know about.

  • Physical Requirements: Your outdoor adventure will be an active participatory trip. Please inform us of any physical limitations you may have as soon as possible. If you exceed 260 pounds, please give us a call. Make sure you are exercising frequently in the months leading up to your trip and can meet our Essential Eligibility Criteria.

  • Whitewater Orientation: To increase your safety, we expect everyone to watch our Whitewater Orientation video before joining us.
  • Trip Forms: Each participant will need to complete the required trip forms within two weeks of making a booking. Refer to your confirmation email for the link to the online forms. If you prefer to fill out paper forms, please let us know right away. If you are reserving within 60 days of departure, your forms must be completed immediately to ensure we can properly plan for your trip.

Reservations and Payments

A $400/person deposit is required at the time of booking with final payment due 60 days before departure. Accounts on which final payment has not been received 50 days before the departure date will be canceled.

Payments can be made by check, money order, eCheck, wire transfer, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover. Prices are in US Dollars, and all payments must be made in US Dollars. Payment of the deposit establishes your acceptance of our complete Terms and Conditions. Individual departures and trip capacity are strictly limited by the managing agency. Your payment is fully refundable for 7 days, less a 3% processing fee, after making a reservation when you reserve a trip 7 days or more prior to the final payment due date.

Cancellations and Refunds

Canceling your trip after your deposit is processed will incur cancellation fees because OARS has absorbed costs on your behalf and will turn others away who would like to book the spaces we’re holding for you. If you must cancel your reservation after the rescission period described above, your cancellation fee will be determined according to the schedule below.

We regret that we cannot make exceptions to the cancellation policy for any reason, including foul weather, poor air quality, wildfire activity, acts of terrorism, civil unrest, or personal emergencies. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to consider purchasing a travel protection plan.

Date of CancellationCancellation Fee
180 or more days before your trip$50/person
179 – 90 days before your trip$100/person
89 – 60 days before your trip$200/person. The remainder of your payment can be transferred to another trip within the same year (or to a credit account for the following year). No refund.
59 days or less before your tripFull fare

Please note that different deposit/cancellation policies may apply for charter groups. Refer to the group organizer’s confirmation email for details.

Canceled Trips

OARS reserves the right to cancel any trip due to insufficient registration or other factors that make the trip impractical to operate. In such instances, we will inform you at least 45 days prior to departure. Do not make non-refundable travel arrangements until you have verified with OARS that your trip is confirmed. 

If a trip must be canceled or postponed due to force majeure (factors outside the control of OARS), OARS will provide full credit for payments made toward future travel, or a refund less the initial deposit amount and any non-refundable payments made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers. OARS will make good faith efforts to recover deposits made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers; however, we cannot guarantee recovery of any or all of the advance payments made. OARS is not responsible for expenses incurred by participants in preparation for a canceled trip.

Transfers

If you need to move your reservation to a different trip during the same season, or to a credit account for the following year, there is a $25/person fee up until 90 days before departure for a one-time transfer of your payment. Transfer requests made 89 days or less before departure will be treated like a cancellation according to the schedule above.

O.A.R.S. Canyonlands, Inc. operates on the San Juan River as a permitted outfitter of the Bureau of Land Management

Ancestral Lands Acknowledgement

We respect and recognize that many of the river canyons on state and federal lands where we operate are the ancestral homes of indigenous communities. Where we operate on the San Juan River between Sand Island and Clay Hills Crossing, we acknowledge the territories of the Southern Paiute, Ute, Pueblo, Hopi, and the Navajo Nation.

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